Charlotte Greene became a Wolbachia Warrior in 2016, along with schoolmate Ruben Klaas. Now 13 years old, Charlotte and Ruben are proud to be part of the global response to mosquito-borne diseases.
In 2016, Charlotte and Ruben were part of the Wolbachia Warriors Program at their school, Bentley Park College, in a suburb of Cairns. They learned about how Wolbachia can reduce the ability of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to transmit the dengue virus, and they set up kits in their gardens with water, Wolbachia-mosquito eggs and food for the mosquito larvae to eat when they hatched.
Through the WMP's Wolbachia Warriors program, students find out about the safe and natural Wolbachia method, make their own observations and host mosquito release containers at home. Parents, teachers and children can participate in citizen science and feel like they are helping their communities be happier and healthier.
Both Charlotte and Ruben are proud that they got to be part of something as important as the World Mosquito Program's Wolbachia mosquito releases. At first, they were curious to see how and why the program works and the science behind it. They both decided to get involved when they realised what this meant for anyone who had suffered or who had looked after someone with dengue fever.
They have also been Wolbachia Warriors, like kids in 11 other countries.
Bentley Park College Principal Rod Jackson remembers being very keen for the school’s 600 students to participate because of the program’s potential to impact upon a longstanding health issue in the Cairns region.
At first Ruben’s mother, Anne Klaas, thought it was odd the mosquito could be the solution to such an awful virus transmitted by the very same mosquitoes, but she warmed to the idea and found herself both proud and excited that the children were involved.
"I was amazed that this solution works and proud that these kids were involved. They could actually help others … they’re young, but they are interested and can be proactive in helping our community," says Anne Klaas.
Households in and around Cairns are always very mindful of mosquitoes. Everyone is aware of how to be protected from mosquito bites, by using DEET or Picaridin-based insect repellent, nets and screens, and mosquito zappers or coils, wearing long-sleeved light-coloured clothing and removing containers of stagnant water: ‘Empty your pot plants’ as the ad says. The WMP Wolbachia method complements these protective actions.
The WMP is working in Australia and around the world to protect local communities from mosquito-borne diseases. The WMP’s self-sustaining method uses the safe, natural Wolbachia bacteria to reduce the ability of mosquitoes to transmit viruses between people.
The WMP’s field teams, supported by members of the local community including school children, release mosquitoes with Wolbachia over a number of weeks, using a variety of release methods that are tailored to local communities. Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases.
Long-term monitoring shows that Wolbachia is self-sustaining at high levels in the majority of our project sites up to seven years after release. In these areas, there have not been any dengue outbreaks.
After seven years of working in northern Queensland communities, long-term monitoring by our researchers show that Wolbachia is self-sustaining at high levels. In areas where high levels of Wolbachia are present, there has been no evidence of local dengue transmission.